On a Monday night in December, just three weeks before Christmas, hundreds of people filled McVinney Auditorium in downtown Providence.
The famed Vienna Boys Choir was performing. With their angelic voices, seasonal holiday songs and Christmas hymns, the musical ensemble drew a large crowd on December 3rd, 2018.
Concert-goers entered the auditorium, found their seats and removed warm winter coats.
Kate Hancock, the Human Resource Manager for the Diocese of Providence, was attending the concert at McVinney Auditorium, which is an agency of the Diocese of Providence.
Five minutes before the curtain was about to go up, Kate heard a commotion behind her. “Someone asked ‘Is there a doctor in the house?” said Kate.
The next few minutes were ones that brought chills to Kate.
A physician and two nurses just happened to be in the audience and they sprang into action.
Kate watched as an unresponsive woman a few rows behind her was dragged out of her chair to the aisle. Then the trio of first responders began performing chest compressions on the woman.
“She had a real cardiac situation going on,” said Kate, who found out later that the stricken woman had an unknown heart condition.
One of the nurses asked the nearby House Manager if there was an AED (Automated Electronic Defibrillator). An AED provides an electrical shock to the heart, so that the heart resumes its normal heartbeat.
Fortunately, Sal Constantino, the House Manager on duty at McVinney at the time knew exactly where the AED was. He ran out of the auditorium and grabbed the AED from the lobby.
As the AED was activated, the team continued compressions and then gave the woman’s heart a shock with the AED.
“I was so close I could hear the prompts from the AED machine saying ‘Clear, Clear, Clear’, “ said Kate. The nurse and two doctors continued performing CPR on her.
Someone else had called 911 and within a matter of minutes, an ambulance and EMS arrived.
The emergency responders wheeled the woman away on a stretcher. She was rushed by ambulance to nearby Rhode Island Hospital.
The Diocese of Providence staff would later learn that the woman’s life had been saved.
According to the American Heart Association, Immediate CPR and the use of an AED can double, or even triple, survival rates.
For Kate Hancock, the health crisis that played out was one she and the Diocese of Providence staff had meticulously prepared for.
The Diocese has bought numerous AED’s and has also provided CPR and AED training for dozens of employees there. There are also AED’s that the diocese’s churches, schools and other institutions have purchased.
“The Diocese has been ahead of the curve on getting AED’s,” said Kate.
They found an unexpected resource to provide the funding for the AED’s as well as the training: money from their medical insurance provider.
“United Health Care gives us a wellness budget, and in the past, we have used it for things like employee fitness challenges,” Kate said. But recently she started hearing more and more about AEDs in the news and thought it would be a good use of the money.
Christopher Donovan has worked as the Director of McVinney Auditorium for the past two years. He knew his staff has been trained for emergencies but said it was gratifying to see the plan put into action last December.
“Everyone did what they were supposed to do, and Sal, who has been trained in CPR and the AED, had everything under control,” said Christopher. A doctor said that if aid was not administered when it was, it would have been a very different story for the woman who collapsed.
“It was the best case of a worst-case scenario,” said Christopher. “If the woman had lost consciousness during the middle of the concert, it might not have been as noticeable, there was a lot of good timing and everyone was in the right place at the right time, and my staff did everything to make sure she was cared for.”
Christopher Donovan also credits the Diocesan Human Resources Team. “They took the lead getting the AEDs, CPR and first-aid training and setting us up to handle these situations,” he said.
The Diocese of Providence already held another CPR and AED training day for their staff this spring.
“I knew when I saw the woman being saved with the AED during the Christmas concert that it was the best use of money ever,” said Kate.